Identity Theft Feed

Ransomware has evolved over the last three decades from a targeted cyber attack distributed on literal floppy discs to a major electronic security crisis for individuals, companies and governments. This type of malware typically locks out computer users and locks down their systems until the cyber hijackers are paid to return access to the information. In 2017, WannaCry ransomware went global, infecting more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries. Most recently, almost two dozen Texas towns were victims of a coordinated attack. The Lone Star State electronic lockouts follow patterns set by ransomware demands in Florida, Maryland and New York.... Read more →


This February 2016 photo on Twitter of Donald J. Trump signing a tax return is one of the few, and unrevealing, looks we've gotten of his federal filings. The focus of Donald J. Trump and his White House change quickly. Issues that were boiling over just days ago quickly get pushed to a back burner by something else that's hotter. But some of those old topics are still simmering. And one of them, Trump's tax returns, saw the heat turned up a bit recently. It was, however, a former college student, not Trump, who was put on the hot spot.... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners this summer launched a campaign to encourage tax professionals to review and upgrade their security systems. But it looks like the IRS also needs to do some work, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. IRS online option breach spurs inquiries: The GAO has been conducting audits on how the IRS manages its security since the agency sustained a data breach in 2015 of its Get Transcript online service. That attempt by hackers exposed the data of around 104,000 taxpayers to potential identity thieves. The service was offline for... Read more →


Computer hacking ID theft image by Don Hankins via Flickr The $700 million deal reached by the credit-reporting company Equifax and federal and state agencies has brought the issue of identity theft back into the public consciousness. Truth be told, it never really left. Every day, we're bombarded by warnings about how crooks are constantly trying to steal our personal information so they can use it take our money and take over our lives. That's a message the Internal Revenue Service is still working to get out to taxpayers and tax professionals alike. Its latest effort is a six-point tax... Read more →


"Dead Again" was a fun thriller, but the concept isn't amusing if the IRS is holding your tax refund for the second time in two years because it still thinks you're deceased. Death and taxes are inevitable, but that's not the eventual convergence yet for one woman. Shakira Evans of Philadelphia, however, is having trouble convincing the Internal Revenue Service of that. Worse, it's the second consecutive year that the 22-year-old mother of two has had to fight for her tax refund from the IRS, which still thinks she's dead. Dead again: Evans went through this same thing last year,... Read more →


IRS building photo by Kari Bluff via Flickr CC The Taxpayer First Act, which is awaiting the president's signature to become law was signed into law on July 1, got a lot of attention for what wasn't in it. The controversial section that would have codified the Free File Alliance was removed in the bill's revised House version, which was approved by voice vote in that chamber on June 10. Three days later, the Senate approved the reworked bill, also by voice vote, and sent it to the White House. Opponents of the formalized Free File section argued that it... Read more →


My mother is almost 85. She's no Betty White, but all things considered she doing darn well. Especially when it comes to cognition and attitude. She listens to an audio book a week, keeps up with the news and her favorite TV game show (Jeopardy) and doesn't take any guff from unsolicited callers trying to sell her stuff. Or worse. Unfortunately, that latter instance is not the case for many in my mom's demographic. A recent Marketplace series examined how the aging brain may become more susceptible to financial scams. Among the findings, data suggest that as we get older,... Read more →


A big part of companies' federal tax responsibilities is paying employment taxes for their workers. These are the Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes on those employees' wages. However, when it comes to workers who are hired as contractors, it's the worker who's totally responsible for these taxes, in addition income tax withholding via estimated tax payments. That's why, when appropriate and fiscally feasible, many firms try to hire independent contractors. Sometimes, though, the line between employees and contractor is fine. It's facts and circumstances in each case when deciding how to classify a worker. And if the Internal Revenue... Read more →


At least one state, Texas, joins the Internal Revenue Service in making filing accommodations for those affected by software company's malware troubles. Watch the full classic Roseanne Roseannadana skit at NBC's Saturday Night Live video page. As the wonderful Gilda Radner character Roseanne Roseannadana used to say, "It's always something." That's particularly true in the tax world. Just when we thought we had made it relatively unscathed through the 2019 tax season, which already was crazy since it was the first one in which most of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes took real life effect for taxpayers,... Read more →


Unfortunately for taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service, there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to tax scams. Fortunately for taxpayers and the IRS, the tax agency and its Security Summit partners are still on top of the most common scams that continue to pop up in some form year-round. These 12 schemes, which have been dubbed the Dirty Dozen tax scams, get added attention, of course, during the main tax filing season. During these hectic days from Jan. 1 — yes, some folks are ready to file that soon — through April 15, millions of us are... Read more →


If a phone call from someone claiming to be with an official tax office doesn't sound quite right, it's because it's probably a scam call. (Photo by rocketace via Flickr) I'm not a paranoid person. And the only conspiracy theories I've ever paid attention to were the for-entertainment-purposes-only ones promoted on television's The X-Files. But I've got wonder if the tax crooks who are working nonstop to steal our identities and tax refunds also are colluding to troll the Internal Revenue Service. Case in point, the latest tax scam alert from the IRS. Today the tax agency issued a warning... Read more →


I attend fitness classes — OK, mostly yoga and I tend to head into Savasana a bit sooner than most of my fellow yogis — several times a week at my neighborhood club. Most of the members have been there for year and it's got a community feel. Still, I am always amazed at how much personal information folks share about themselves with people they really don't know very well. Many folks, in fact, share stuff albeit unintentionally with total strangers as a recent piece by Kate Klonick for the New York Times alarmingly illustrates. Klonick, who teaches information privacy... Read more →


The 2019 tax filing season appears, so far, to be thankfully free of tax scams. Maybe it's because things are going a bit more slowly, either due to the many tax law changes, the lengthy government shutdown that preceded it or a combination of both. I hate to be a buzzkill, but this early filing season respite is probably the best we can hope for. Tax realists know that crooks are still out there, planning and/or implanting their schemes to steal taxpayer identities and file fake returns to get fraudulent refunds. Scams increase as tax deadline nears: That concern is... Read more →


Prior year tax returns serve many purposes. This filing season, a check of last year's return will show you what your tax liability for 2017 was. You can compare that to your final 2018 tax bill to see if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did indeed lower your taxes even though your refund this year was smaller. You'll also need past year tax data if you're applying for a major loan, such as a mortgage. And if you're electronically filing your tax return this year, you'll need data from your previous year's taxes to complete that task. Record... Read more →


Most tax preparers are honest and work to help their clients. Some, however, use shady methods to make money off unsuspecting filers. Don't be one of them! More of us every tax-filing season are turning to tax professions. The 2019 filing season in particular has underscored the value that tax professionals add. This is the first year taxpayers have had to deal with the real-life effects of the many Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) change. A knowledgeable tax preparer can help you navigate this new maze. But you need to be careful in picking the person to be your... Read more →


Longest U.S. federal government shutdown in history be damned! That's apparently the Internal Revenue Service's motto this year. It announced last week that it will start working on our 2018 tax returns — and issue any related refunds — this filing season, which is set to start on Monday, Jan. 28, even if it's technically still operating in modified shutdown mode. The IRS underscored that commitment on Friday, Jan. 11, when it announced that taxpayers who qualify to use Free File can now access the online no-cost tax preparation and e-filing option. Yep. Free File 2019 is now open for... Read more →


Dr. Seuss' The Grinch movie image courtesy Illumination Entertainment Grinches aren't always green. Sometimes we don't even know what they look like. That's the case when they set their sights on stealing not only Christmas, but your identity by sending fake emails. This holiday season, ID thieves have stepped up their phishing efforts. And some of those fake emails are going to tax professionals as part of payroll direct deposit and wire transfer scams. Tax pros targeted, too: Phishing scams tend to be small-d democratic. The business email compromise and/or spoofing tactics generally target all types of industry and employers.... Read more →


Welcome to a new week, another seven days for cyber criminals to try to steal your personal, financial and tax information. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners in state tax departments and the tax world's private sector spent five days alerting us to potential tax identity theft schemes and ways to ensure we don't fall victim. Unfortunately, we need to be aware of the dangers of online tax and financial crime every single day of the year, not just for one designated week. That's why today I'm recapping the National Tax Security Awareness Week warnings.... Read more →


Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are the biggest online shopping days. But e-commerce platform Shopify Plus says cyber shoppers this December are expected to spend $7 billion more than they did in November. Crooks also are well aware of the increase in online shopping as Christmas nears. It's the perfect time for them to try to snag financial account information, Social Security numbers, credit card information and other sensitive data they can use to steal individuals' identities. In the short term, cybercriminals can turn the stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards or creating new... Read more →


Computer hacking ID theft image by Don Hankins via Flickr The billions of holiday shoppers who head for their electronic devices instead of malls are well aware of the precautions they need to take as they pick perfect gifts from websites. This year, everyone also needs to be on alert for tax crooks who've joined this annual online crime wave. Specifically, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners warn that they've recently seen a surge of fraudulent emails where the sender impersonates the IRS and uses tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware.... Read more →